Colorado tells COVID-19 vaccine providers not to ask for IDs, will ensure non-citizens can be inoculated
Colorado’s public health department on Sunday sent a letter to the hundreds of providers across the state that are vaccinating residents against COVID-19, directing them not to require government IDs or other documentation before people are inoculated.
Medical facilities and local health agencies that do not follow the state’s directive may lose access to their vaccine supply, Scott Bookman, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s COVID-19 incident commander, warned in the letter to the state’s 459 providers.
“It is imperative that individuals are not denied access to the vaccine due to their documentation status or inability to get government-issued identification,” Bookman wrote.
The message to Coloradans, Bookman wrote to the providers, should be: “Whether you are a U.S. citizen or not, we are all in this together. If you would like a vaccine, you will be able to get one according to what vaccine phase you are in.”
State officials say providers — who are now authorized to vaccinate members of the general public 70 and older — can ask a person’s name, date of birth and address, but recommend they operate on an “honor system” with regard to people’s ages rather than asking to see an ID.
Providers should use using their own discretion in determining whether people are eligible to be vaccinated in the current phase of the state’s distribution plan, Bookman wrote.
“Requiring proof of ID, especially a government-issued ID, can exacerbate distrust and accessibility inequities for many critical groups,” Bookman wrote. “This requirement is a barrier for people who are unable to get identification or have trouble accessing services that issue IDs, such as those who are undocumented, experiencing homelessness, have a disability, or others on the margins of society who are unable to get an ID.”
The state health department also directed all providers to set up direct web links for eligible Coloradans to sign up and register to receive COVID-19 vaccines, and that these sites must be separate from regular patient portals that only are available to people within those systems’ networks. Providers must also set up “properly staffed” telephone numbers so that Coloradans who don’t have internet access can call to set up appointments.
Both the phone numbers and web links should be set up by Friday, officials said.
“Providers that do not have access to vaccines yet should also establish these channels of communication in preparation for eventually receiving vaccines,” Bookman wrote.
The measures announced Sunday are part of Colorado’s efforts to ensure equity in vaccine distribution, while acknowledging that supplies from the federal government still are limited.
The state is receiving around 70,000 doses a week, and so far is inoculating people in Phase 1A and the first half of Phase 1B of Colorado’s vaccine distribution plan. That includes medical staffers with access to COVID-19 patients, people living and working in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, first responders, and anyone 70 or older.
Gov. Jared Polis had hoped to accelerate vaccinations with an expected shipment of 200,000 doses next week through a release of the federal stockpile held in reserve to ensure people get their second doses. But on Friday Polis accused the Trump administration of lying and acting out of “gross incompetence” after learning the held-back supplies didn’t exist.
Health officials expect to get to the second half of Phase 1B — essential workers including teachers and grocery store employees, essential officials in state government and frontline journalists — in March. Phase 2, which includes people 60 to 69 and those with preexisting health conditions, will follow later in the spring, with the rest of the public eligible by summer.
“We must be responsive to disparities that have been so pervasive throughout the pandemic — disparities that have plagued society for years upon years but are ever more prominent during crises,” Jill Hunsaker Ryan, director of the state health department, said in a statement. “To achieve equity, we need to take deliberate action. To not add to that suffering, we must eliminate barriers to fair vaccine distribution. We know that our providers share in our goals to reach all communities.”
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